Pugs are a breed anyone can recognize instantly. Popular in Chinese households for thousands of years,
Pugs are cute, compact, comical, and cuddly. They can fit in with almost any family in almost any size home. They love being the center of attention.
But are Pugs good service dogs?
With a few possible exceptions, which we’ll discuss a little later, the answer is no, pugs are not good service dogs, but they are good emotional support dogs.
Nobody is going to hitch a hundred Pugs to their sleigh to pull it across the snow. There are no seeing eye Pugs.
Pugs can’t be used as guide dogs, and it’s unlikely that a professional dog trainer will accept a Pug to become a hearing ear dog, allergy dog, or sentry dog.
On the plus side for Pugs, they are likely to be accepted in most offices and many commercial establishments as PTSD dogs, as long as they are house-trained.
PTSD dogs are service dogs in terms of ADA definitions, and their owners have some federally protected legal rights.
And while emotional support dogs aren’t technically service dogs, that is, you can’t automatically take them anywhere, Pugs are perfect for the role.
They’re warm-hearted. They are kind. They become very attached to their pet parents. This makes them extremely well suited as therapy dogs.
5 Reasons Pugs Make Great Therapy Dogs
Pugs have their limitations as service dogs, but they make great emotional support dogs.
Here are five reasons why Pugs make great emotional support and therapy dogs.
Pugs do well in studio apartments.
They are equally at home in sprawling larger homes, although they aren’t well suited for going up and downstairs.
Your Pug can make a move with you without a lot of readjustment. Anywhere you go is home for your Pug.
Your Pug is always happy to see you. If you need affirmation, or if you need somebody just to know you are there, your Pug is always there to help.
Pugs thrive as the center of attention.
They love to be petted. And because they love to be petted—for Pugs, petting runs a very close second to food as a reason to live—they are a great way to destress.
Various scientific studies show that petting a Pug for 10 to 15 minutes lowers bloodstream levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Petting a Pug raises bloodstream levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, the hormone that helps mothers bond with their babies.
Pugs don’t bark a lot. They don’t need a lot of physical activity. They are happiest when they are sitting in your lap, helping you lower your stress and feel more connected to your world.
Pugs that are properly socialized as puppies develop the ability to read their human’s moods and respond accordingly.
They know when to be vivacious and funny and when to be calm and quiet. Their favorite activity seems to be taking naps, but they will follow their humans around the house to keep them company.
Pugs enjoy getting petted by anybody of any age, from children to the elderly. They are friendly and positive around people, and they are likable to all kinds of people.
Pugs also have a combination of stubbornness and confidence that makes them easier to handle.
For instance, they aren’t scared off your lap when you sneeze, the way an equally small and adorable Jack Russell Terrier might be.
They are confident no matter where they are, so they can focus their attention on interacting with you.
We’ll admit that everything about Pugs isn’t low maintenance.
One way to describe their shedding is that they only shed once a year, but their shedding season lasts 365 days. Also, among dogs, they are unusually flatulent.
You’ll need a good vacuum cleaner, and you’ll need to use it regularly when you own a Pug.
But a Pugs coat is easy to keep clean and untangled if you brush it once or twice a week. One a month, it’s time for a bath and carefully trimming nails.
Like all small dogs, Pugs are prone to tooth decay. The solution to this problem is brushing their teeth several times a week.
And like all brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs, Pugs are prone to treatable problems with vision, smell, and breathing.
You need to be able to take your Pug to the vet before one of these predictable health issues become serious.
But Pugs never run very far away from their food bowl. They are not destructive to furniture.
They don’t whine or howl. They get along well with other pets. Overall, they are a very low-maintenance breed.
Pugs don’t have the highest canine IQ, canine intelligence quotient.
Dog expert Dr. Stanley Coren assembled a team of canine intelligence testers to put 100 dogs of 138 different breeds through a series of tests of intelligence.
Out of the 138 breeds, Pugs ranked 108th. They were behind Akitas and Boston Terriers but ahead of Blood Hounds, Basset Hounds, and Shih Tzus.
In the tests by 100 dog experts, Pugs responded to a command correctly only 30 percent of the time. The dog intelligence testers reported that it took 40 to 80 training sessions for a Pug to learn a new command like “Sit,” “Come,” or “Stay.”
But if you rated Pugs for their EIQ, their emotional intelligence quotient, they might be geniuses.
You will never train a Pug to jump through hoops or ride a motorcycle.
But you can train a Pug to be a great house dog, and your Pug can use her natural emotional intelligence to a superb lifetime companion.
Also read: Pug intelligence – Are Pugs Smart or Dumb?
For Your Pug, You Are the Top Dog
Pugs respond well to calm, assertive guidance. When a mother Pug sees her puppy doing something she does not like, she will offer gentle correction.
If you adopt your Pug at the age of four to six months, and you bring just one Pug puppy into your house at a time, you can also train your Pug to behave the way you want with calm, firm, non-punishing guidance.
Simple things like training your Pug the meaning of the command “No!” and good manners, like waiting to be invited to hop up into your lap, help make your Pug a better future service dog.
But if you don’t establish who is boss at an early stage in your relationship, your Pug may add stress to your life instead of removing it.
How Do I Get My Pug Certified as a Service Dog?
There is considerable resistance to the idea of treating Pugs as service dogs.
Here’s an example:
In July 2013, Robert Ragels, a Persian Gulf veteran, tried to enter the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. With him was his service Pug, Piggy.
State troopers stopped Ragels and Piggy at the door. He was eventually allowed into the Senate Chamber after a senator’s aide intervened, but the encountered left him feeling frustrated.
“Stuff like this drives me crazy,” said Ragels, who suffers PTSD as a result of his service in Iraq. “I have Piggy with me because I want to look normal. I just want to be the same as everybody else.”
Ironically, the Senate had just passed a state law recognizing the rights of owners of service animals more line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).
Ragels got Piggy in 2011 through Train a Dog, Save A Warrior, a non-profit organization that trains dogs for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I know Piggy can’t carry my stuff around like a German Shepherd,” Ragels went on. “But she is still a service animal.”
Non-traditional service animals like Pugs still aren’t universally accepted, despite clear ADA rules.
Under the ADA, if it isn’t obvious that a dog is a service animal (and for many people, a Pug isn’t an obvious service animal), businesses are only allowed to ask two questions:
- If this animal required because of a disability?
- What task has this animal been trained to perform?
The state troopers would not have been allowed under the ADA to ask what disability Mr. Ragels suffered.
They couldn’t require documentation that Piggy had been licensed, trained, or certified to perform service dog duties. They could not require Piggy to wear a vest.
The fact that the rights of service dog owners are written into the law doesn’t mean that everyone nows them.
A business that denies you your lawful rights to a service Pug could lose a lawsuit, but wouldn’t going through the long process of a lawsuit add to your stress?
What Are the Qualifications for Service Dogs?
For most kinds of service dog activities, being a service dog is hard work. Guide dogs, seeing-eye dogs, and dogs that help people keep their balance as they walk requires vigilance and physical strength.
No trainer is going to work with a Pug to become one of these kinds of service dogs.
But providing emotional support for PTSD is a different kind of activity. Your Pug doesn’t need a lot of physical strength to help with PTSD.
Here’s what you need to get your Pug certified as an emotional support animal.
How to Prove Your Pug Is a Well-Behaved, Socially Acceptable Service Dog
You have rights under UA law to have a service dog accompany you wherever you go in public.
But businesses also have the rights to be protected from unacceptable behavior.
A business or government office can refuse entry to you and your Pug, without violating the ADA, if:
- Your Pug defecates or urinates on the floor or any fixtures or furniture in the business or government office. “”Just a little” still counts.
- You lose control of your Pug. Uncontrolled bad behavior, like growling or nipping at other customers, is a reason to have you and your dog removed. You can be charged with trespassing if you refuse to leave. Your dog can be put down if he bites another customer.
There are certain kinds of normal canine behaviors that just can’t happen if you want to take your Pug with you, say to Disneyland or on a plane, or even down to McDonald’s:
- Your Pug cant pick up items from the floor unless they belong to you.
- Your Pug can’t steal items from display cases.
- Your Pug cannot sniff other dogs, other customers, employees of the business or government office, tables, chairs, shelves, products for sale. (There is an exception for an allergen detection Pug, but your Pug would need to have been professionally trained for that purpose.)
- Your Pug must never pull or drag you unless you are unconscious and your Pug is trying to get attention from passersby.
Your service Pug must have mastered the sit, wait, and stay commands.
Your service Pug must not be aggressive, anxious, or agitated, no matter what happens around you.
Your service Pug may greet a child who wants to gree the dog if you allow it, but service Pugs must not contact strangers’ children without your permission..
How can I prove my Pug is a service dog?
There is a simple way to prove that your Pug meets the qualifications of service dogs.
Get an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification
The CGC certification is a two-part course you take with your Pug. You and your Pug demonstrate mastery over10 areas of good canine behavior.
When both you and your Pug successfully complete the course, the AKC will give you a certificate stating that your dog is well-behaved.
This is also proof that you are acting responsibly by using your Pug as a service animal in public.
No business or government office is legally allowed to demand proof of certification as a service animal before you and your Pug come in.
But CGC certification is a good thing to have if questions arise later.
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